Candy, soda, smoking, fast food…ever tried to give something up? How did it work?
My guess is that it was unpleasant, maybe even torturous, and pathetically unsuccessful.
The solution? Quit quitting!
That’s right. For now, we are going to nix the whole notion of giving anything up. Instead, we are going to start adding things in. Yes, we are going to do the opposite of "normal" weight loss and dieting, which is based on the concept of taking things away. (That only causes those yucky feelings of deprivation, anyway!)
No deprivation. No taking things away; only adding them in. Let’s take a look at a few things you can start giving yourself today.
1) Give yourself a mental picture. Imagine yourself as a person who doesn’t eat a donut every day, gorge on greasy burgers, or shun the gym. Imagine yourself as the strong, confident, disciplined person you are becoming. If you discipline yourself in doing this, you will begin to understand the concept behind the saying, “Mind over matter.” Don't focus on what you can't have, just think about what you do want and what you can have.
2) Give yourself permission. When we take away the “bad” connotations of our worst vice (within reason, of course!), the behavior becomes less taboo, and therefore less tempting. When you give yourself permission, also give yourself the suggestion that, although you could have it, you simply don’t want it. “I could have a candy bar right now, but I don’t one.” Saying this type of sentence quietly to yourself, or even aloud, can have a powerful effect.
3) Give yourself something else to do. Providing yourself with a replacement behavior will help occupy that empty space that used to be filled with doing the bad habit. Take a walk, call a friend, gargle with mouthwash, practice deep breathing exercises, read a book, or listen to music. It may be helpful to write a list when you are feeling strong so that you have something to refer to in a moment of weakness.
4) Give yourself (or someone else) some pampering. When our needs for affection, attention or nurturing are not being met, sometimes we behave in ways (albeit misguided) to help us fill the void. This is often where bad habits come from. Take care of you. Send yourself flowers, take a bubble bath, watch your favorite movie, or get a manicure. Do something that makes you feel special and takes care of your need for nurturing. Better yet…find someone else who needs some love and care and pamper them with kindness. (Bonus: you’ll be amazed at how much helping someone else really helps the helper.)
5) Give giving a chance. Search for deficiencies in your life and add away. Are you getting enough water? Add a glass or two per day. Do you eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day? Add some zucchini and tomato to your spaghetti, or toss some sliced strawberries into your cereal. Do you have a strong support network? Make a new friend or call an old one, join a class, send a note to a family member, or invite someone over for dinner. Do you practice having a positive attitude? Count your blessings, get a subscription to a quote of the day email, and remind yourself of your positive qualities throughout the day.
When we add to, rather than take away from, we don’t feel deprived. We feel more empowered to joyfully make decisions that enhance our own well-being. Sometimes that even includes cutting down on, and then quitting, whatever vice that is thwarting our goal of fitness and good health.
Give these suggestions a try and then give yourself a pat on the back. Giving never felt so good!
This information should not serve as a replacement for therapy. Please visit the Can Therapy Help Me page for more information if you think you may have an eating disorder, or should require individualized help.
FCCS is directed by Melinda Haynes, MA, California LMFT 102308. Oklahoma LMFT 1153. North Carolina LMFT 2143.